The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rep. Femi Gbajabiamila, has said that an objective assessment of the 2023 general elections would show marked improvements from previous elections held in the country.
Gbajabiamila noted that the improvements in the polls were necessitated by the amendments to the Electoral Act made by the 9th Assembly.
In an address to welcome members back from the election break, Gbajabiamila commended the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for their hard work and commitment during the polls.
He said: “The 2023 general elections have effectively come to an end, with the exception of those areas where the electoral body has declared elections inconclusive or scheduled reruns. As I said two weeks ago, this has been a hard-fought election season.
“Expectedly, the declaration of results will not by itself suffice to assuage the passions or calm the tensions aroused by this electoral competition. For that, we need time and the deliberate efforts of political, religious, social, and economic leaders acting in recognition of the fact that while elections will come and go, our highest imperative remains the progress of Nigeria and the prosperity of her people.
“I wish to thank the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and all the staff of the commission for their hard work and commitment to ensuring free and fair elections across the country. I wish to also express my gratitude to the men and women of the security agencies who ensured the worst predictions of crises and conflict did not come to pass.
“Any objective assessment of these elections will show marked improvements from prior outings. This is not to suggest perfection but to acknowledge evident progress in our collective efforts to ensure elections we can all be proud of.
“Amendments to our nation’s electoral laws by the legislature, pronouncements by the judiciary, and operational reforms by the electoral commission have significantly improved elections in Nigeria since 1999.
“The amendments to the Electoral Act by the 9th National Assembly have been particularly instrumental in improving the election process through the use of technology tools to facilitate voter accreditation and transmission of results.”
Gbajabiamila said the process of ongoing reform in the nation’s electoral system and continuous improvement must continue. He called on INEC to collaborate with stakeholders to conduct a meticulous assessment of the election process.
He said the House must take action on the Electoral Offences Commission Bill before the expiration of the current session “to ensure effective enforcement against individuals and organisations whose violations of our electoral laws undermine our constitution and threaten our democracy.
“A system of vigorous prosecution and punishment of electoral offenders will serve as a deterrent to others in the future and help build confidence in our elections.”
On the amendments to the constitution signed last week by President Muhammadu Buhari, the speaker said “they advance the cause of our federation, bringing us closer to achieving our highest national ambitions.”
He listed the amendments to include consequential reforms to the design and operations of the Nigerian state, particularly with regards to the devolution of powers to the states and strengthening the judiciary and legislature at the subnational level.
“Whilst these amendments represent a significant step forward for our country, the work is not yet done because nation-building is a continuum. Each new generation must build on the efforts of the past until, by our common endeavour, we achieve a just, peaceful, and prosperous society.
“We fell short this time in our commitment to ensuring political empowerment and representation for women and other marginalised groups in our country. In the time we have left, we will work to understand why, as a first step towards ensuring the success of subsequent efforts”, Speaker Gbajabiamila added.
He noted that, “our national priorities must return to the issues of governance, ensuring that the institutions of government work towards the ends of development, national security, and the welfare of the Nigerian people.
“As representatives of the people, this is our highest obligation; it is a duty that persists so long as we hold office in the government of our republic. I am confident that all of us in the 9th House of Representatives recognise this and will continue to act accordingly, as we have always done.”
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